When Lin-Manuel Miranda isn't working on Broadway or tending to his loyal Twitter following, he's performing with Freestyle Love Supreme. The improv rap group has toured the country with their unique act, in which the performers take cues from the audience and turn them into full-scale musical numbers on the spot. Next stop: Joe's Pub where they will play two concerts on May 29. In addition to Miranda, the concert (helmed by In the Heights collaborator Thomas Kail) will feature Christopher Jackson, Anthony Veneziale, Arthur Lewis and Chris Sullivan. Below, the Tony-winning composer opens up about his musical influences, the surprising leading men he'd like to duet with and his perennial summer jam.
What record/album was your favorite growing up?
My parents had hundreds of vinyl records. My favorites were the Man of La Mancha OBC, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Buscano America by Ruben Blades and The Karate Kid Part 2 soundtrack.
What concert most influenced you as a performer?
I saw Michael Jackson's Bad tour in 1987, when I was in second grade, and then memorized his Bucharest concert, the live one on HBO. I saw how he waited for the audience and played them at his tempo, like he was playing an instrument comprised of thousands of people. It was incredible.
What is your go-to audition song?
Whatever will get me the gig. I used to sing "Breeze Off the River" from The Full Monty when I needed a ballad. Great song.
What song are you most excited to perform in your show?
Freestyle Love Supreme is based entirely off of audience suggestions, so I have no idea. We run with what you throw at us.
What musical theater track is the most played on your iPod?
I checked my iTunes, and my most played tunes are all loops of instrumentals of songs I've written. I'll often write music first, then loop an mp3 and walk around with it as I write lyrics. The most played track that's not a loop surprised me: "Favorite Son," sung by Josh Henry from the American Idiot OBC. Then again, that INSANE riff Josh does at the end is worth every replay.
If you could invite any performer onstage for a duet at Joe's Pub, who would it be?
Colm Wilkinson and Andre De Shields. I'd listen to those guys sing anything.
What musical theater performer from the past do you wish you can collaborate with?
I'd want to write for Ethel Merman and watch her blow the doors off the place.
What album was the soundtrack to your 20s?
SO many. But I'll tell you the song I associate most with my twenties. It's called "Perfect, Finite," with music by Chris Miller, and it's on Michael Winther's Songs From An Unmade Bed. That sums up my twenties good as anything.
What’s your favorite love song?
“So in Love” by Cole Porter.
What song makes you feel sexy?
Prince Paul did a remix of “Mood For Love” that makes me feel pretty makey-outey.
What is your favorite workout track?
“B.O.B” by Outkast
What’s the best hidden gem in on your iPod?
I've got a Kitt/Yorkey demo for a song they wrote for a movie that never got picked up. It knocks me out.
Favorite break-up song?
“Beck's Sea Change.” The whole thing. Also, Bob Dylan's “Moonshiner” off The Bootleg Tapes. You can wallow in that for a month.
What song most makes you smile?
“Mama Will Provide” from Once on This Island makes me happy every time I hear it.
When this song plays, I can’t help but dance:
“The Choice Is Yours” by Black Sheep. "Engine Engine Number 9..."
My vote for the song of summer is:
“Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba. Every year. You're never gonna keep it down.
Check out Lin-Manuel performing with Freestyle Love Supreme in the video below, and don’t miss them at Joe’s Pub on May 29 at 7:30 and 9:30 PM.